Pullman police recommended charges against WSU football players T.J. Fehoko and Robert Barber in a press conference held by Chief Gary Jenkins and WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos
PULLMAN — Washington State’s starting nose tackle Robert Barber, and backup defensive lineman Toso “T.J.” Fehoko were arrested by Pullman police Friday for second-degree assault.
Pullman police concluded that Barber, 22, and Fehoko, 19, caused the two most grievous injuries in the big fight that erupted at an off-campus party on July 23.
In a half hour-long press conference jointly held with WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos, Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said investigators determined that Barber punched WSU student Jackson Raney, 24, in the head twice, knocking him unconscious and causing a concussion.
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On Friday morning, WSU football staff surrendered Fehoko and Barber to the Pullman Police Department, where they were booked for investigation of second-degree assault and then released.
The case will be forwarded next week to the Whitman County Prosecuting Attorney, who will determine what criminal charges, if any, will be filed. Jenkins said there isn’t really a typical sentence for second-degree assault but added that a felony is “generally more than a year in jail, which sometimes of course can be commuted down to less than that.”
Investigators said Fehoko punched Alex Rodriguez, 22, who suffered a broken jaw. Rodriguez has since had the wires in his jaw taken out, and he attended the press conference held at the Pullman City Council Chambers Friday.
“I feel like it was a step in the right direction toward justice of my case and what happened that night,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not fully satisfied until they are deemed guilty in a court of law. But I like the direction the WSU athletic department and police department are taking together to figure out my case.”
The WSU Athletic Department’s policy is that any student-athlete charged with a felony is not allowed to compete. But because criminal charges have not yet been filed against Barber and Fehoko, Moos said it’s up to WSU football coach Mike Leach to rule on their status for Saturday’s game against Idaho.
Barber has been expelled from WSU based on the Student Conduct Board’s findings from its own investigation into the case, but he has appealed the expulsion, and will remain in school and on the football team pending the results of his appeal. He practiced with WSU on Thursday.
Things have been tense between the WSU football team and Pullman Police Department this week after Leach accused the local police of unfairly targeting his players in their investigation of three assault cases that have resulted in the arrest and recommendation of charges against four scholarship football players.
Sophomore linebacker Logan Tago is facing a charge of felony robbery after allegedly stealing another man’s case of beer on June 4 and leaving the victim with a concussion. Senior safety Shalom Luani is facing a charge of second-degree assault for allegedly breaking another WSU student’s nose in an altercation that occurred outside Domino’s Pizza on August 24.
Jenkins emphasized Friday that his police officers are not targeting WSU football players.
In the case of the party assault from July 23, Jenkins said that while several fights broke out at the house on Oak Street, “the two most serious assaults resulting in serious injuries were those instances involving Barber and Fehoko.”
“There were some others assaulted we investigated (in which) we attempted to identify the assailants and were unsuccessful,” Jenkins said, adding that the police identified Barber and Fehoko through two cell phone videos and witness statements.
“I think that somewhat points to the vulnerability of student-athletes that a lot of them are very recognizable in the community and it makes it much easier to identify (them) than students not involved in athletics,” Jenkins said.
Police also found that a third WSU student, former football walk-on Dylan Axelson — who is no longer on the roster — punched another WSU student, Dylan Rollins, in the head. However, video evidence and witness statements led investigators to conclude that Axelson acted in self-defense and charges will not be brought against him.
The police will recommend a disorderly conduct charge against Rollins. They will also recommend a charge of disorderly conduct against 19-year-old WSU student Pedro Diaz for his role in provoking a physical altercation.
The investigation took about eight weeks, and during that time, Jenkins said his detectives interviewed “approximately 80 to 100 people” and identified 65 witnesses, 61 of which they interviewed.
Of the 61 witnesses interviewed by investigators, 22 were WSU football players.
Jenkins said the football players were “all very cooperative with us” and emphasized that behavior of WSU’s student-athletes has improved tremendously under the leadership of Moos, Leach and WSU men’s basketball coach Ernie Kent.
“By and large I think we have very good charater in our student-athletes. There’s 450-plus and we’ve got a couple that have found themselves in real trouble. I don’t think that’s indicative of the bulk of our athletes,” Moos said.
Moos also said he wanted WSU student-athletes to use this situation as a cautionary tale of what can happen if they put themselves into “situations that can turn into trouble.”
“I think what we can take from this is a glowing example of what can happen (in bad situations) and what their future amounts to as a student and a representative of Washington State. That’s a very big responsibility,” Moos said.